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Trip Report - Paris during the strikes (with a few excursions)

Gman | Jan 14, 202006:42 AM     2

Our 15th year of spending the Holidays in Paris with a week in the country preceding or following. This year, we were in Brittany for eight days prior and arrived in Paris on December 21st. Had been following the grève and transport nightmares pretty closely for several weeks, but it being a Saturday, and coming from the northwest, as we did, had no trouble getting into Paris in our trusty Citroën. Took up residence at our favorite apartment on Ile Saint Louis. Given the lack of public transport we were somewhat limited in our wanderings, but we did have wheels garaged nearby, and my parking Karma held out, so we managed to get around and out of town as well.

AUBERGE FLORA, 44 Boulevard Richard Lenoir, in the 11th , lunch.
Had been interested in trying this place since reading a few recs on Chowhound, and especially after the thread about women chef/owners. Given the appalling lack of diversity in most kitchens and restaurants (in leadership roles, at least) I’m now very interested in voting with my feet and wallet whenever I can. Pleasant room and a very friendly staff. Started with Samosas de Legumes (pea and potato) with a coriander sauce and followed with Cabillaud Roti on a bed of baby vegetables (turnips, cauliflower, zucchini). The cod was moist and beautifully cooked. Bob had Travers (rib) de Cochon and pomme de terre écrasée which he liked very much. We had a bottle of Chinon (€36) and with coffee our bill was €78. Would definitely go back, and based on further reading would like to try the Tree of Tapas!

A LA TOUR DE MONTLHERY - CHEZ DENISE, 5 Rue de Prouvaires in the 1st, lunch.
It was maybe a bit late (1:30?) but was concerned to find the place fairly empty, but that became a theme this trip thanks to the grève. I love this place, and we nearly go every year. Everything I’ve had here has been delicious, and in some cases, memorable. Knowing what was coming we were restrained with the entrées and shared six escargots. For plats we had the Choux Farcis and the Daube de Joue de Boeuf. Wow, is that good. They both were. Don’t know where we found room but we shared (most of) and Ille Flottante. Long may she reign… €108, with €28 of that being the house Brouilly.

LE BARATIN, 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve, in the 20th, lunch.
Our third or fourth time here and I think I’m done. I like the chef’s food, and when she appears in the dining room, she seems to exude warmth. It’s a shame none of that is in evidence elsewhere. We walked in, on time for our reservation, and unfortunately the only staff person around was the useless, grumpy patron at the bar, her husband. I greeted him, and told him we had a reservation and he looked at me like that was impossible and shook his head no. The waiter emerged, I gave him our name, and he brought us to our table. I’m sorry that I forgot that I was supposed to study the blackboards, high above the bar, to know both what I want to eat and drink before being seated in a place where it was impossible to see either of them or easily get back up without disturbing all the diners around us. Not that there is ANY room for anyone to stand around studying anything… When the waiter asked me what I wanted to drink I had no choice but to say I don’t know, since I couldn’t see the list and hadn’t studied while I was being stared down by the patron. At his suggestion, we ended up with a Macon Rouge (Biologique, like the entire list here) and (wait for it…) actually not the wine that was listed on their ardoise. It was fine. I started with the Terrine de Campagne with Pistachios. It was fine. Hardly revelatory. Bob had the velouté de légumes et cresson. It was good. Like most of the food here, simple, but good. I had the Boulettes de Boeuf with Polenta and Bob had the Travers de Veau in a Xeres sherry sauce with crushed potatoes. The boulettes were tasty, if a bit string-y and possibly a bit burned. The polenta was delicious. Bob was sad they ran out of one of his favorite desserts, Pomme au Four, which, people all around us had, moments before, been enjoying. He had to make do with an apple cake, and I had the cheese, which was a thin slice of tomme. Even though lunch is very well priced at €19, I won’t make a special trip here again. I’ve had comparable or better food and a much better experience elsewhere. €85, with €42 of that wine.

LA MAISON PLISSON, 93 Boulevard Beaumarchais in the 3rd, lunch.
Was on our annual visit to nearby Merci and came here for lunch. Have been a few other times and always liked the food. Despite the slightly youthful and hip vibe of the place, we were seated between two elderly couples, one who clearly took their lunches there frequently, as every waitperson seemed to know them, doted on them, gave them free oysters and wine (it being the holidays and all). Sweet. I started with the soupe du jour which was poireau and pomme de terre with some herbs and poppy seeds strewn about (it was good) and then I had a very rich croque-monsieur with a very tart salad of greens so small and delicate it was hard to get them on the fork. The interesting thing for me here was that individually each part of the dish was good, but having a bit of them in each bite seemed to bring the experience to a higher level, balanced and satisfying. Have certainly had my share of croques, often accompanied by greens of some sort: this one stood out. Bob had the Plat du Marché which was hands down the prettiest Blanquette de Veau I’ve ever seen, filled with perfect little vegetables all precisely cooked, as was the creamy stew. Had a bottle of the house Chardonnay, (€36) a Bourgogne Cote Salines, a partnership with Domaine Gueguen, and coffees. €85

CINQ MARS, 51 Rue de Verneuil, in the 7th, lunch.
Have never had a bad bite here, and the welcome is always warm. Can’t resist the Œuf Mayo served with a delicious salad as its one of the best I’ve ever had, and consistently is. Bob started with a salad of tuna, tomato and œuf dur which was very good. He followed with Filet de Bar with very buttery basmati and I had Brandade de Morue that was rich and delicious and was accompanied by a tart and crisp salad of lettuce hearts, a very nice contrast. We splurged on a bottle of Janot Bos Bourgogne Chardonnay that was very nice (€54) and shared a dessert of apple crumble with a side of Chantilly cream. €109

LE RELAIS DE L’ENTRECOTE, 101 Boulevard Montparnasse in the 6th, lunch.
LE RELAIS DE VENISE, 271 Boulevard Pereire, in the 17th , lunch.
Read, with interest, a thread in December where Ptipois said she found the meat and service to be better at Venise than at the other L’Entrecôtes, so was determined to finally give it a try even though it’s well outside of our usual paths. Most happily, this now means that we’ve tried all these joints in Paris (none yet in other cities, they each have a few outposts). They are freakily similar, down to the house Tarn, the pricing, the seeming-same penmanship used on the handwritten menus, the exact same plates. At all of them you start with a salad of walnuts and lettuce (a few radishes at L’Entrecôte) and you get two rounds of steak with the famous sauce and a fresh pile of frites. It was interesting sampling these two within a few days of each other. Here’s our conclusion: They’re all good. Really good. I’ve enjoyed every one of them, very much, and I love how consistent they are. This go round I’d give a slight edge the L’Entrecôte because the salad dressing was better, more balanced, the Venise one a bit heavy handed on the mustard. If the meat is better at Venise, and it might be, it was lost on me. And finally, at Venise, we were slightly given the bum’s rush, hadn’t quite finished our coffee when the waitress appeared with the credit card machine in hand and wanted to know how we were going to pay. I know all these places are masterful in getting you in and out quickly so they can flip the table at this no-reservation spot, but hadn’t had this happen at the others. So, I say they’re all good. GO to one near you, and enjoy. And plan a lighter meal for the rest of the day… L’Entrecôte €85, Venise €81.

CHEZ OMAR, 47 Rue de Bretagne, in the 3rd, lunch.
We frequently visit and have always enjoyed the food, but also tend to stick to what we know we like. In many years past we would start with the Salade Crudité (€14), which used to be enormous and included numerous vegetables as well as a pile of tuna and some œufs dur. Last year, disappointingly, the tuna and eggs disappeared so this year we went a different route. I ordered the Œuf Mayo (€5) and Bob ordered the Thon a l’Huile (€5) and we mixed them ourselves and had sort of the same experience for a lower price tag. Followed the same path with our plats, and rather than opting for the couscous Royale (€26) which is a sampling of all the different meats, we had one order Brochettes agneau (€18) and one order of Merguez (€16) and shared and were quite happy. I know other places have better vegetables, but of the four places we’ve tried this is the one we enjoy coming back to, though I promise, I will try Chez Hamadi, which have not yet experienced. Small pitcher of Rosé and we were sated for €56.

AU VINS TEMPS, 6-8 Mian Street, Vetheuil, lunch.
Our pal from Chars, in Normandy, who usually comes to Paris while we’re in residence had very few train options so we drove up to see him. Friends had recommended this place, run by two young twin brothers, in nearby Vetheuil so we went for lunch. The table was given an amuse of a small cocotte of herbed chevre and some croutons. I started with a cured salmon served with a beet sorbet (surprisingly good together) and chive cream Chantilly. Bob has soup au potimarron et bacon (an apparent fondness here for American ingredients). My plat was Supreme de Volaille croustillant aux corn flakes (!), mini carottes et jus a l'ail noir. This was delicious on all fronts. Bob had Pintade Roti avec Poireau which he loved. Our pals had St. Jacques on a bed of purées celeriac and entrecôte. Highly stylized desserts for everyone (deemed not all that successful) but me, who went the cheese route. We shared a bottle of Bourgogne Rouge (€26) and of the three menus available, we all chose from the €31 list. Fully booked, nice interior, and I’d go back if we were in the neighborhood.

BRASSERIE L’AVENUE, 3 Avenue du Marechal Joffre, Chantilly, lunch.
It’s a Monday (many places customarily closed), we’re in the country (Chantilly, on a whim), and we’ve just passed the 1pm hour, which means panic time (many places will not seat new tables for lunch past this hour) but fortune smiles on us after being tossed out of one place (complet!) and we snag the last table at this bustling brasserie/hotel. I started with a salad with a Chevre Croustillant on top and Bob had Salade Gesier. I did my usual FULL STOP when I see some menu item comes with Gratin Dauphinoise, and here it was the Menu du Marché which featured Poulet Fermier and cèpes. Bob had a roasted Pave du Saumon. The place had many families (school break) and several senior citizens taking their big meal of the day (the Menu du Marché is promised to be copieux on the website) which was polished off even by a small frail woman to my left, and an elderly gent who may have been borderline special needs: it was nice to see them both treated with such care by all the staff. Finished off with coffees after a Moelleux and a Tarte au Pommes, served, of course, with Chantilly cream. Shared a bottle of Rosé (€22) and our total was €88.

BIGLOVE CAFFE, 30 Rue Debelleyme, in the 3rd, dinner.
On our way to Chez Omar we passed this place which had a long line outside of it. Part of the Big Momma portfolio of trattorias in Paris and other European cities. Had read in a few places, most recently the NYTimes in December, that there was now decent Neapolitan pizza in Paris (apparently the French eat almost as much pizza as us Yanks). On our way back from Omar we stopped to take a closer look and were warmly greeted by Executive Chef, Ciro Cristiano (which I later learned from looking at their website) and decided we would go back. They take no reservations, (though now seem to, for lunch--a change since we were there) so the website counseled guests to come early, before they open, to have the shortest wait. We were the first to cue up at 6:35 and within moments a line formed behind us. By 7, when they opened, the line was 40 long. At 7, the whole team came out onto the street, wrapped their arms around each other, turned to face the crowd, counted down four and then yelled “Buona Sera!” It was quite funny, and joyful. A nice start. It was a bit like school lunch hour to have an entire restaurant suddenly go from empty to bustling and full in less than 5 minutes. In fact, we hadn’t yet ordered when the first pizzas came out of the oven and passed our table. I guess some folks knew exactly what they wanted and ordered when they were seated. We started with a dish called Begg For It, (the carte favors puns) which was a poached egg with fried artichokes on a bed of cacio e pepe cream, spinach and guanciale, and also ordered a plate of Coppa capocollo from Sergio Falaschi in Tuscany. These were both good but something was off on the timing because I don’t think the egg dish was meant to be room temp, veering toward cold. Clearly, this place means to be second only to the L’Entrecôte joints on efficiency and table flipping but there are glitches (not that we’re ever in a hurry). Several tables around us (all of us seated at the same time) had two courses, paid and were gone and we still didn’t have our pizzas, (which as anyone knows, at the likely temperature of a wood-fired oven, which they possess, takes only 3 to 4 minutes). Our theory is that either a: they fired our pizzas too soon and had to abandon them, or b: they neglected to put in the order. Thankfully, they were worth the wait. We shared the Mammagherita, and one they called Hot Drunk Love, which was Fior di latte (similar to mozz), ricotta, copa, arugula, mint and tomato. I could have done without the mint, which is a personal prejudice except in Iced Tea, but they were both tasty and quite unbelievably, gluten free. If this is gluten free crust, I’ll gladly have more of it. The room is beautifully styled, dimly lit, and cozy. If I can reserve, or hack the line again, I’d go back. But standing in line for anything is something I gave up when we left New York City (where we seemingly stood in line for everything) and now I won’t do it for the Mona Lisa or good pizza, even though we live in exile in a pizza wasteland, but that is for another thread… €78ish (don’t have the receipt) with €36ish of that being a nice Barbera d’Asti.

DU PAIN ET DES IDEES, 34 Rue Yves Toudic, in the 10th. Snacks and bread.
Was happy to finally make it here and snag a baguette (wish I also bought some Pain des Amis, which I think I was served at Auberge Flora, but we were leaving the next day) “Escargots” pastries in Praline and Pistachio/Chocolate, and a Pavé with Reblochon and lardons. As everyone has said, everything was excellent, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.


Places that are near our apartment so we usually end up visiting, none exceptional, but mostly fine if you carefully order…

CHEZ RENE, €110 dinner. Met some friends from nearby here our first night in Paris as they were leaving town the next day. I like the room, (better at lunch, when daylight floods it) and I like the staff, wish the food was at least 30% better. Digestives were a bit steep.

L’ESCALE 1 Rue des Deux Ponts, in the 4th, €70, lunch. Will stick to house wines next time. Good Croque, good quiche. Usually good plat du jour, and if nothing else, a reliable omelette mixte. Lots of locals.

LA ROTISSERIE D’ARGENT, 19 Quai de la Tournelle in the 5th, Dinner. The bakery next door is a great addition to the neighborhood. This place has become more hammy/showy these last few years. Liked it better when it was a bit simpler, somehow more straight-forward, and that affable but elusive cat Beaujolais, meandered about. €100ish – our pals stealthily and generously paid the bill.

BRASSERIE DE L’ISLE SAINT-LOUIS, 55 Quai Bourban, in the 4th, dinner. €69. Our usual first night haunt, me for the always reliable choucroute, and usually an omelette mixte for Bob. Very sad to see the place so empty, like never before, a combo of the grève and the loss, I assume, of some Notre Dame foot traffic.

As ever, thanks Houndies for all your feedback, guidance, warnings, insights and profound wisdom and candor.

Le Baratin
Maison Plisson
Restaurant CINQ-MARS
Le Relais De L'Entrecôte
Chez Omar
Du Pain et des Idées
Chez René
La Brasserie de l'Isle Saint-Louis.
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